Saturday, September 28, 2013

Malifaux: Finally time to go through the breach?

Bad things happen.
In the recent years, the game Malifaux has been growing in popularity. And while the backdrop of the game was intriguing (a weird mix of Victorian horror and wild-west gunplay), I could not get too excited about their range of miniatures. Wyrd Miniature’s initial selection of models for Malifaux were very hit or miss, tending towards the latter end of the spectrum.  But with their transition to plastic, there has been a dramatic increase in the quality of their sculpts, greatly benefited by the advance in computer generated figures and 3d printing.  And while I do not necessarily like the design of all the new models, it is hard to argue with the actual implementation.  They use a 32mm heroic scale system, similar to GW’s 28mm heroic scale, although these numbers are more of a rough guideline.  The main difference between the two companies is the artistic style they use, with Malifaux favoring long limbs and small hands and feet, while GW’s models are a little stockier.

With the upcoming release of the 2nd edition ruleset for Malifaux, Wyrd is in the process of redesigning many of their old metal kits in plastic. This influx of redesigned plastic models has finally piqued my interest enough to buy some of the new Guild Death Marshals and Tara the Herald of Obliteration (one of the limited Nightmare edition plastic sets available during GenCon 2013). Since Wyrd’s initial release of plastic models, I have been interested in assessing the quality of the plastic they use (Dave Taylor’s and Independent Painters favorable assessment of some of their first plastic figures also helped sway my interest). This was of particular interest in light of all of the recently Kickstarted miniature-based games, such as Dreadball and Sedition Wars. While both games offer a wonderful selection of models, the plastic used to cast the miniatures is a little difficult to work with (here’s looking at you Dreadball...). Briefly, the two games utilize a sprueless plastic-resin material that requires superglue to form a strong bond. Since they are not cast in polystyrene, like the material Games Workshop uses, you can’t use the common ‘plastic’ glue. More problematic than the glue-type requirement, the plastic is much more difficult to clean-up without tearing and scuffing up your models.  Furthermore, instead of having the customary single moldline, many of the models have several, making cleaning them all the more arduous.

Looking into it a little, it turns out that the Malifaux plastics use a mixture of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) (used in Lego!) and high impact polystyrene. While most plastic glues do not work on pure ABS plastic, it works fine on the mixture used for Malifaux (and the Dreamforge models, since they use the same material).  All of the pieces come on sprues similar to what you would see from Games Workshop. Thankfully, like the DreamForge plastic kits, the sprues have little feet at their corners to prevent them from being crushed together, potentially damaging some of the smaller parts.

Models come on sprues complete with little feet on their corners for stacking!
All of the models have an impressive amount of detail, all of which is crisp and clearly defined.
One of the first things I noticed about the models were how tiny some of the different components were. The pistols and and chains on some of the Death Marshals are unnervingly thin. So thin in fact that two of the bayonets on the pistols of the Death Marshals were damaged. The first having the tip of the blade snapped off and the other simply bent. This I can see will be a pretty common problem with many of the new Malifaux plastic kits. While I appreciate the intricate level of detail and complexity of many of the models, I don’t necessarily like how careful you will need to be when working on or playing with the models (just removing the pieces from the sprues feels like your are putting your models at hazard…).

Many of the pieces are finely detailed however some can be prone to breaking if not handled carefully.
Each Death Marshal comes with two head choices, one a flaming skull and the other a grizzled looking human face. 
Despite how tiny and seemingly fragile some of the components are, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the plastic was to work with. The moldlines can easily be removed with an X-acto blade without fear of scratching or tearing the plastic. Further, in addition to using the front of the blade, you can also scrape the moldlines off with the blade’s spine (something that would really mess up Dreadball models…). You can also use high grit sandpaper to smooth out trimmed regions without fear of damaging the plastic.

At the moment I have finished trimming and assembling Tara’s Nothing Beast and am very pleased with the results. Assembly was straightforward and simple, not really requiring extra work to make the model table-ready. Some of the seams where pieces fit together were a little more noticeable than I wanted, so I did a small amount of greenstuff work to smooth them out.

Onward into oblivion!
Overall I have been very impressed with Wyrd’s efforts with their plastic models. If you were at all hesitating getting into Malifaux because of an uncertainty about the quality of their plastics, I would say you have nothing to fear.

Back through the breach!

-Harlon Nayl


  1. Looks very interesting. Glad the plastic is better because that to me is the biggest turn-off for non-GW miniatures. I will have to check out the line the stuff I have seen is a little too steampunkish for my tastes.

  2. Yeah, I was very pleased with the quality of the plastic.Since the plastic is a little harder it is easier to remove the pieces from the sprues without crushing or damaging the different pieces.
    Keep an eye out on the game in the coming months; they will be releasing plastic versions of lots of their old sets which largely look very nice. Maybe one of those would suit your tastes better.